OBJECTIVES: To establish consensus case definitions for several common work related upper limb pain syndromes for use in surveillance or studies of the aetiology of these conditions. METHODS: A group of healthcare professionals from the disciplines interested in the prevention and management of upper limb disorders were recruited for a Delphi exercise. A questionnaire was used to establish case definitions from the participants, followed by a consensus conference involving the core group of 29 people. The draft conclusions were recirculated for review. RESULTS: Consensus case definitions were agreed for carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis of the wrist, de Quervain's disease of the wrist, epicondylitis, shoulder capsulitis (frozen shoulder), and shoulder tendonitis. The consensus group also identified a condition defined as "non-specific diffuse forearm pain" although this is essentially a diagnosis made by exclusion. The group did not have enough experience of the thoracic outlet syndrome to make recommendations. CONCLUSIONS: There was enough consensus between several health professionals from different disciplines to establish case definitions suitable for use in the studies of several work related upper limb pain syndromes. The use of these criteria should allow comparability between studies and centres and facilitate research in this field. The criteria may also be useful in surveillance programmes and as aids to case management.
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